Reflections on General Conference


What a great General Conference we were privileged to hear! There is so much to discuss, but the video of the talks has not even been divided into talks yet, let alone there being written transcripts, so we must do as well as we can without them.

I counted three or four speakers, including the prophet, who condemned the evil of abuse. I was heartened to hear that. Indeed, the last few weeks, I found myself wishing the issue would be addressed in conference. I suppose I have seen so much in the news about the evils of family violence--so many massacres-by-dad in so many places--that I have longed for the Church's leaders to raise their voices strongly against it. Its evil twin, pornography, only received one mention that I heard, and I hope on another occasion we will hear more.

These are the two issues, more than any other, which destroy the souls of the innocents. It is like sowing salt into the soil at Carthage--what can ever grow thereafter? Many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds . . .

I suppose that is why we must be both careful of those around us--the numbers of "ravening wolves," especially among men, has vastly increased--and full of care for those around us. I believe I have written before about one of my favorite quotes, from Longfellow, that says, “Believe me, every man has his secret sorrows, which the world knows not; and oftimes we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

In that respect, the talk of (I believe it was) Sister Dennis caught my ear. She spoke of a dog whose owner was disappointed with its lack of obedience on an outing, only to discover the dog was seriously wounded and could not obey even though it wished to do so.

I think many of the people we walk among are like that dog. We think them cold, when they are only sad. We think they lack self-discipline when they are seriously wounded. We think them distracted when they are in serious pain.

Now, sometimes people really are just cold, really do just lack self-discipline, really are simply distracted. Both the natural man and the man who loves darkness walk among us, too. I've been around the block enough to know that some people really do love darkness.

But for most people (at least I hope it is most people), it's the woundedness doing the talking or the mal-behaving. I know that was my story when I was an investigator, and even for years afterwards. The natural world (that is, the world built by the natural man) is cruel, degrading, and coarsening in its effects on the human soul. Hope and trust can be almost completely out of reach after such a period of soul-abrading. Even when you want to follow the straight and narrow, you have no spiritual muscles or spiritual habits of mind at all.

I spent years coming in from the cold, not because I didn't want to come in, but because I didn't really understand how to do it! I've forgiven those who judged me for that, though it took a long time for me to forgive myself. Indeed, for a long time I wished and wished I had been born in a "normal"--i.e., non-abusive--family so the passage in from the cold would not have been so painful and difficult.

In my current season of life, I've made peace, for the most part, with it all. It is what it is; it was what it was. But I have unending gratitude for those who were patient with me, who saw past my upbringing to who I could become. They saved my life.

I'd like to be that person. I'd like to be the person who sees the wounds on that little dog, and patches them up. I know it takes discernment, though. I've seen too many foolish women who saw wounded pups when what they were really facing was a ravening wolf.

And that means there is room for judgment, to be sure. Not final judgment, by any means, but the "righteous intermediate judgment," as President Oaks called it, that keeps our loved ones safe from those ravening wolves. I know that Sister Dennis enjoined us to judge not, but after all I have experienced in life I know there is a role for that righteous intermediate judgment.

Even so, I'll keep that Longfellow quote as my motto, and keep my eyes and ears open for the chance to put it to use: "oftimes we think a man cold when he is only sad."

So what was your favorite talk this conference?